Charles Lindbergh thought that America could not win a war against Germany's vaunted Luftwaffe. Lindbergh, the famed Lone Eagle who made the first solo flight across the Atlantic, was one of the most respected men in America. He became one of the most influential spokesmen among the isolationists. Lindbergh had been living in
England. When the War began in Europe, he returned to America and entered the debate about American involvement. He began speaking at AFC events in April 1940 in protest of Roosevelt Administration efforts to support the Allies (Britain and France) against Germany. He was among the more restrained AFC spokesmen, but his fame brought him considerable attention. Roosevelt compared him to Civil War Copperheads (anti-War Democrats). Lindbergh in protest resigned his military commission. [Freidel, Rendezuous, p. 366.] Up until
the Japanese attack on Pear Harbor, Lindbergh argued against American involvement in World War II and the measures taken by the Roosevelt Administration to confront the NAZIs and Japanese and to support the British. Mixed in with his promotion of isolationism were attacks on Jews. One of his most notable speeches was delivered in Des Moines, Iowa on September 11, 1941. He was speaking to support the America First Committee. He
sharply criticized those that he accused of leading America toward war. He insisted, "If any one of these groups--the British, the Jewish, or the administration--stops agitating for war, I believe there will be little danger of our involvement." He told the audience that the Roosevelt Administration was acting against the country's interests. Lindbergh had visited Germany. He attended the Munich Games in 196 a a guest of Luftwaffe Chief
Herman Goring. He was given a tour of Luftwaffe facilities doubted that the U.S. military would achieve victory in a war against Germany, which he said had "armies stronger than our own." Some agreed with him. Many Americans by this time, however, had come to side with President Roosevelt and saw the dangers represented by the NAZIs and Japanese militarists. There was, as a result, considerable criticism of Lindbergh. Some denounced
as an anti-Semite. At a time that Jews were being massacred in unbelievable numbers by NAZI Einsatzgruppen in the Soviet Union, Lindbergh was attacking the Jews. Lindbergh was clearly anti-Semitic. German's anti-Semitic campaign including the excesses of Kristallnacht was well known. All that can be said in defense of Lindbergh is that the wholesale murder campaign of the Holocaust was not yet known.
Charles' father was Charles August Lindbergh Sr. He had immigrated to Minnesota from Sweden with his parents as a child (1860). He graduated from the University of Michigan Law School (1884). He married Evangeline Land (1901) . Evangeline came from a prominent family in Detroit, Michigan. She graduated from the University of Michigan. This was rather imprssiin for a girl at he time, bu rather unusully with a degree in chemistry. Chemistry was not a discipline many women pursued at he time. She earned a master’s degree from Columbia University in New York. She wiuld teach high school chemistry. His mother reportedly constantly hovered over him, but was not outwardly affectionate. When he was older, she would always put him to bed with a handshake. His father has been sescribed as distant. Once when Charls fell into a river, he didn't jump in after him--expecting the boy to learn to swim.
Charles Augustus Lindbergh Jr. was born in Detroit, Michigan (1902). Charles was his father's third child and his mother's only child. The Lindbergh home in Detroit burned down (1905). The family moved to Little Falls, Minnesota where his father was elected to Congress. As a result, Charles spent a great deal of time in Washingon, D.C. (1906-16). His parents separated when he was 7 years old (1907). He bounced back and forth between them thriughout his subseuent childhood. Charles
much preferred the outdoor life of Minnesota to the city life of Washington with is father and California with his mother.
We note photographs of Charles with the pooch here. We are guessing they were major companions. A pilot flew to Little Falls to show off his airplane and sell rides in it, an activity known as 'barnstorming'. Charles didn't get a rude. But it began his inftuation with the air plane.
We notice a portrait of Cgarkes with his mother. He was about 5 years old with long curls and dressed in a sailor suit. We are guessing it was taken in Washingyon, D.C. where is father was a Congressman. Here we see him at about 8 years of age wearing an outfit more suitable for outdoor activities.
Charles was not very interested in school and did not apply himself to his studies. He was more interested in mechanical things like cars, farm equipment, motorcycles, and when he got older -- of course air planes. Bouncing back and forth btween prents, he ttend mny different schools. After high school When Lindbergh turned eighteen, his parents convinced him to enter the University of Wisconsin. He studied mechanical engineering, but he dropped out in his second year of study. After dropping out of college (1922), Charles enrolled at the Nebraska Aircraft Corporation's flying school in Lincoln and it was there he flew for the first time.
World War I had a substantial impact on Lindebrgh. After the War broke out in Europe. the debate over intervention began. Mst Americans wanted no part in the War, but pubkic opinion gradually shifted against Germany. Although a majority was opposed to intervention, some Americans thought he country should intervene. Sntiment varied across the country. His father was ardently opposed to intervention. It apparently was the major factor in his losing his relection bid (November 1916). This is a little surprising as the Midwest in general was an area most opposed to entering the War. We suspect that all of this was a factor in Lindy's his later opposition to Amrica entering World War II and his leadership in the Isolationist Movement. Many Americns were convinced that America entering World War I had been a great mistake and were determined to repeat hat mistake a second time. At any rate, his father's defeat in his reelection bid ended his trips to Washington. The United States only a few months after the election declared war on Germany (April 1917). Lindbergh was still a teenager and too young to be drafted. He was excused from school to help run the family farm for the war effort.
Lindbergh, the famed Lone Eagle who made the first solo flight across the Atlantic in 1927, was one of the most
respected men in America.
Lindburgh after his trans-Atlantic flight was the most popular man in America, if not the world. His flight added to the popularity of aviator caps abnd jackets. He was also the inspiration for toys and games. A good example is a "Spirit of St. Louis" toy we see an unidentified American boy holding. His popularity conmtinued into the 1930s until he involved himself in the debate over Amerivan involvement in Workld War II.
Anne Morrow Lindbergh was the attractive and intelligent daughter of American banker and diplomat Dwight Morrow. Until Charles met Anne, Lindbergh seems to have taken little interest in girls. His passion was for aviation. Apparently he not even dated before he met her. The two married (1929). And of course he quickly taught her how to fly. The two worked together exploring and charting air routes. THey shared political views as well. They opposed American resisting Fascism. A book published by Anne in 1940 suggests it was not just anti-war sentiment that motivated the psair, but a feeling that totalitarianism was 'the wave of the future. [A. Lindberg. Wave] They had six children: Charles Augustus Lindbergh II (1930-32); Jon Morrow Lindbergh (1932- ); Land Morrow Lindbergh (1937- ); Anne Lindbergh (1940-1993); Scott Lindbergh (1942- ); and Reeve Lindbergh (1945- ). It is of course Charles Augustus that is best known as the kidnapped Lindbergh baby.
Charles Augustus was abducted at the age of 20 months from his bed (March 1, 1932). This resulted in a a highly publicized 10-week search. Ransom negotiations were conducted with the kidnappers, but the baby's corpse was found in Hopewell, New Jersey near the Lindbergh home (May 12). He had been killed soon after he was removed from his hime. Authorities arrested a German immigrant, Bruno Hauptmann, who had some of the ransom money (1935). A nationally publicized trial ensued. He denied responsibility, but never explained how he came in possession of the money. He was found guillty of kidnapping and murder and executed. Many unansered questions, however, exist about the kidnapping. The Lindberghs tiring of the national spotlight abnd fearing for the saftey of their children moved to England in an effort to get away from the press and public (December 1935). Lindbergh had been living in England. When the War began in Europe, he returned to America and entered the debate about American involvement.
Some like Charles Lindbergh, thought that America could not win a war against Germany's vaunted Luftwaffe. Lindbergh was such a popular figure in Europe that he was able to learn a great deal about European air forces (Britain, France, Germany, and even the Soviet Union). The American Air Attaché in Berlin attempting to acquire information about the new German Luftwaffe hit upon the idea of having Lindbergh visit Germany, guessing that NAZI bigwigs, especially Luftwaffe Commander Herman Goering would wine and dine him which is just what happened. Lindbergh visited in 1936, obstensibly to see the Munich Olympic Games and again in 1937. He was Goering's guest at the Munich games and he was given a tour of Luftwaffe facilities. His assessment influenced Ambassador Kennedy in London who sent a cable to Secretary of State Hull, "German air strength is greater than that of all other European countries combined." He also reported that only the United States was "capable of competing". [Freidel, Rendezuous, pp. 307-308.]
Both Lindbergh and Roosevelt agreed after Munich that American must build a powerful air force. Roosevelt wanted both an aggressive research program and to begin mass production. Lindbergh question whether sufficiently modern designs were ready for mass production. Roosevelt wanted to facilitate Allied orders for aircraft while Lindbergh believed that would invite German attacks on America. is assessment of the quality of the Luftwaffe planes was accurate. He erred badly, however, on the capacity of the Germans to build planes. He thought that the Germans could build 30,000-50,000 planes annually. [Freidel, Rendezuous, p. 308.] He also badly estimated the potential american production.
Linbergh was not only making a military assessment, but he was making a political assessment as well. He insisted that the NAZIs were not a threat to America. In a CBS radio broadcast, Lindbergh told Americans, "We need not fear a foreign invasion unless American peoples bring it onthroough their own quarreling and meddling with affairs abroad. The only reason that we are in danger of becoming involved in this war is because there are powerful elrements in America who desire us to take part. They represent a small minority of the American people, but they control much of the machinery of infuence and opropaganda. Thdey seize every opportunity tom push up closer to the edge."
Lindbergh living in Britain was incouraged by the U.S. military, Col. Lindbergh traveled several times to Germany to assess German aviation, especially the rapidly developing Luftwaffe (1936-38). The vists wwee wudely reoorted by thec media. [Time Magazine]
Luftwaffe commander Hermann Göring took a personalm interest in Lindbergh because of his aviation fame. He convinced Lindbergh, who had no military experience, that the German aviation industry and the Luftwaffe was far more powerful than it actually was. Göring and Ernst Udet, permitted Lindbergh to examine the Luftwaffe's newest bomber, the Junkers Ju-88 Stuka and their innovative all-metal fightert, the Messerschmitt Bf 109. Lindbergh was even permitted to fly it. He reported that he knew "of no other pursuit plane which combines simplicity of construction with such excellent performance characteristics." He inspected most of the Luftwaffe planr types with which the Germans would lunch the War. Lindbergh reported to the U.S. military that Germany was leading in metal construction, low-wing designs, dirigibles, and diesel engines. Lindbergh also negan a survey of aviation in the Soviet Union (1938). The Siviets had a huge aurforce, but were less advanced than the Grmans. Lindbergh's findings were ann important element in air intelligence reports curculating in Washington before the outbreakof the War. [Cole, pp. 39-40.] Lindbergh correctlyvreported on many asopects of the Luftwaffe. What he missed, was the relatively small size of the Luftwaffe and the German manufacturing capability in comparison to that of the Allies and the United States. At a dinnr hosted by the U.S. Ambassador in Berlin, Göring present Lindbdergh with the Commander Cross of the Order of the German Eagle (1938). Henry Ford had earlier been opresented with the same honor. Lindbrgh was apparently very proud of the honor.
Lindbergh can be faulted for his appraisal of the Luftwaffe, but he was correct about much of what he reported. Less understandable was the clear infatuatiin and that of his wife withb Hitler and the NAZIs. It was not just fear of fighting the NAZIs, theyb both were favirably impressed by them. This was something they dusavowed after Anmerica entered the War, but the historical record is clear. Lindbergh was struck by "Gerrman dynamism, technology, and military might". [Dunn] His wife, Anne Morrow,, was also smitten, in her case by Hitler himself.She wrote in her diary shortly before the War that Hitler, "... is a very great man, like an inspired religious leader -- and as such rather fanatical --but not scheming, not selfish, not gredy for power, but a mustic, a vissinary who really wants the best for his country and on the whole has rather a broad view." [Morrow] Morrow was an accomplished writer. It is difficult to understand how a writer could say that about a man who supported book burnings. The War and the killing phase of the Holocaust had not yet begun, but the book burnings, suppressionm of a free press, and police state was widely reported. We suspect that anti-Semitism was a factorvhere, something Morriow regretted after the War.
The Roosevelt administration had used Lindbergh to help assess the strength of the Luftwaffe. When Lindbergh returned from England after the outbreak of war, President Roosevelt hoped to bring him into the bi-partisan foreign policy he was attempting to forge. Lindbergh even claimed that he was offered a cabinet post as a possible Secretary of the Air. In some ways Lindbergh's views were similar to Hap Arnold, the man Roosevelt appointed as head of the Army Air Corps. [Freidel, p. 323.] Both were opposed to diverting American arms production to the Allies. In the end, Lindbrtgh chose to side with the American First Committee. It is difficult to fully assess his motivation, but the primary reason almost certainly was his conviction was that the power of the Luftwaffe and his assessment that neither France or Britain could survive.
Americans concerned about the Roosevelt Administration's weakening of the Neutrality Acts to support the Allies formed The America First Committee (AFC) in September 1940. Some of the organizer were Robert E. Wood, John T. Flynn and Charles A. Lindbergh. They organized 450 local chapters and claimed more than 0.8 million members. Important Americans including Congressmen soon spoke up to support the AFC. Some even had participated in the fight against American participation in the Laeague of Nations. Important supporters included Burton K. Wheeler, Hugh Johnson, Robert LaFollette Jr., Hamilton Fish, and Gerald Nye. The AFC was the single most important voice for isolationism in America. The AFC promoted the idea that the United States should build an impregnable defense so that no foreign country would dare attack America. They insisted that American democracy could only be preserved by avoiding involvement in a European War. They thought that aid to other countries weakened America's own defense. [HBC note: We know now that while the AFC was arguing against involvement that the Japanese were actually planning an attack and the NAZIs were designing weapons systems which could reach America. The impact of the AFC's campaign would have left an isolated America without alliesto fight the NAZIs and Japanese strengthened by the resource and industies of conquered nations.] The AFC's publicity campaign was orchestrated by John T. Flynn. One advertisement read: "The
Last War Brought: Communism to Russia, Fascism to Italy, Nazism to Germany. What Will Another War Bring To America?" Father Charles Coughlin, one of the most important radio commentators of the 1930s, in April 1941 begamn to endorse the AFC in his broadcasts and publication Social Justice. Couglin was another AFC proponent whose message included anti-Semitism. Senators including Gerald Nye, Burton K. Wheeler, Hugh Johnson, Robert LaFollette Jr., Henrik Shipstead, Homer T. Bone, James B. Clark, William Langer, and Arthur Capper attacked Lend Lease. Americas engaged in a intense debate as to whether aid shoulkd be given to Britain and risk war with Grmany. The debate engulfed the entire nation. [Goodwin, p. 194.] Presiden't Rooevelt with a masterful Fire Side Chat, helped sell Lend Lease to the American people. In many ways it was NAZI barbarity that moved American public opinion. Americanns saw the Luftaffe pond London in the movie newsreels and listened to Edward R. Murrow's broadcasts and gradually came to agree with the President that the NAZIs could not be dealt with in any way but force and that America itself was threatned. In the end, the Senate passed Lend Lease by 60 votes to 31. This was thge key vote as Britain ws approaching the point that it no longer had the financial resources to purchase war materials in America. The AFC actively opposed the Administration's efforts to aid Britain throughout 1940 and 41.
Lindbergh was one of the most influential spokesmen among the isolationists. He began speaking at AFC events in protest of Roosevelt Administration efforts to support the Allies (Britain and France) against Germany (April 1940). He was among the more restrained AFC spokesmen at least at first, but his fame brought him considerable attention. And because of his influence, the President and his spokesmen targeted Lindberg. Roosevelt compared him to Civil War Copperheads (anti-War Democrats). One historian writes, "Feeding Lindberfg's persecution complex were Harold Ickes's unrelenting attacks on him, each new assultmore blistering than the one before. The interior secretary was obsessed wih the idea that Lindbergh was plotting to take over the country. .... Having studied Lindbergh closely, Ickes decided he was most likely to touch a nerve by hammering away at the flier's 938 acceptance of a medal from Hermann Goering. In speech after speech, he referred to Lindbergh not bu name but as 'the Knight of the German Eagle'. .... Lindbergh, Ickes declared, was devoted to the Hitler regime and the medal it gave him: 'He prefrred to keep the German Eagle. The colonelcy in our Army he returned to the President of the United States." [Olson] Lindbergh in protest resigned his military commission. [Freidel, Rendezuous, p. 366.]
Up until the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Lindbergh argued against American involvement in World War II and the measures taken by the Roosevelt Administration to confront the NAZIs and Japanese and to support the British. He told the audience that the Roosevelt Administration was acting against the country's interests. Lindbergh doubted that the U.S. military would achieve victory in a war against Germany, which he said had "armies
stronger than our own."
Mixed in with his promotion of isolationism were attacks on Jews. There are historical reasons for the development of anti-Semitism in Europe. The strength of this prejudice can be seen in how a boy growing up in the Mid-West can become anti-Semetic. I am not sure just why Lindbergh became anti-Semetic, but it was strong enough that he did not recoil from the NAZIs like most Americans. One of his most notable speeches for the America First Committee was delivered in Des Moines, Iowa (September 11, 1941). He was speaking to support the America First Committee. He sharply criticized those that he accused of leading America toward war. He told his aplauding audience, "The Brutush and Jewish races, for reasons that are not Anmerican, wish ton involve us in the war. Their greatest danger to this countrylies in the large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, oyr press, our radio, and our givernment." He continued, "If any one of these groups--the British, the Jewish, or the administration--stops agitating for war, I believe there will be little danger of our involvement." Many agreed with him, but were less vocal. [Dunn] Many Americans by this time, however, had come to side with President Roosevelt and saw the dangers represented by the NAZIs and Japanese militarists. Some denounced him as an anti-Semite. At a time that Jews were being massacred in unbelievable numbers by German Einsatzgruppen in the Soviet Union, astonishingly Lindbergh was attacking the Jews. (While Lindberg did not know about this, German's anti-Semitic campaign including the excesses of Kristallnacht was well known as was the brutal treatment of Jews in occupied Europe.) Lindbergh was clearly anti-Semitic. All that can be said in his defense is that the wholesale murder campaign of the Holocaust was not yet known.
Lindbergh is best known for his record-setting Atlantic flight and then for his fight with the Isolationists to prevent America aiding Britain agaunst the NAZIs. Almost unknown today is Lindbergh's greatest passion in life after aviation--immortality. He persued a vurtually life-long quest for biological immortality. One author maintains that his genius for engine mechanics drove him to an essentially mechanical view of the body and life. Lindbergh thouht that human life just like biolgical life could be extended by simply replacing body parts. [Friedman] After he became famous, Linbergh sought out Dr. Alexis Carrel, the first American scientist to win a Nobel Prize (1930). He did ground-breaking work in tissue culture and laboratory maintenance of organs. The two collaborated and developed mechanical devices for mainting organs outside the body. The two were in fact pictured together on a Time magazine cover with the perfusion pump they developed. (June 13, 1938). Lindbergh and Carrel also shared similar views on eugenics--another NAZI obsession.
There was, as a result, considerable criticism of Lindbergh. He was the hihghest profile American in the debate over support for Britain. Andhe came very close to flat out anti-Semitism. Both badly hurt his reputation, primarily after Pearl Harbor and the outbreak of the War.
Lindbergh tried to get his commission back after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. President Roosevelt recalling his bitter attacks as an American Firster flatly refused. The President was convimnced he was a NAZI. This was priobably unfair, but here is no doubt that he was smpathetic in many ways. Lindbergh became a consultant for Lockheed and went to the South Pacific as an advisor. He illegally flew some combat missions in the Pacific and downed a Japanese airplane. More importantly he made some valuable suggestions that helped extend the combat range of the P-39 Lightnings. This proved to be a factor in shootung down Admiral Yamamoto.
Cole, Wayne S. Charles A. Lindbergh and the Battle Against American Intervention in World War II (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1974).
Dunn, Susan. 1940: FDR, Wilkie, Lindbergh, Hitler--The Election Amid the Storm (Yale University Press: 2013), 418p.
Freidel, Frank. Franklin D. Roosevelt: Rendezvous with Destiny (Little Brown: Boston, 1990), 710p.
Friedman, David M. The Immortalists: Charles Lindbergh, Dr. Alexis Carrel, and Their Daring Quest to Live Forever (Harper Collins, 2007), 338p.
Gilbert, Martin. A History of the Twentieth Century Vol. 2 1933-54 (William Morrow and Company, Inc.: New York, 1998), 1050p.
Morrow, Anne. Diary.
Olson, Lynne. Those Angry Days: Roosevelt, Lindbergh, and America's Fight Over World War II, 1939-1941 (2012), 576p.
Time Magazine (January 19, 1939).
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